MATHEMATICAL FORMULA 'PREDICTS MARRIAGE BREAKDOWN'

Autor: Will Knight Fuente: NewScientist.com

The secret to finding lasting love might remain a mystery to most, but two US researchers claim to have come up with a mathematical model that can predict whether a relationship will fail.

The researchers also say their system provides a simplified way of counselling couples and can help them to overcome relationship problems. However, the method has yet to be verified independently and is based in part on a subjective analysis.

John Gottman, a clinical psychologist, and mathematicians James Murray and Kristin Swanson, all at the University of Washington, based their model on interviews with hundreds of newlywed couples carried out over the last 15 years.

The team says they can predict if a marriage was going to break up within four years with 94 per cent accuracy. The further claim that it has been successful at helping troubled couples to abandon the idea of divorce in 65 per cent of cases.

"The mathematics we came up with is trivial, but the model is astonishingly accurate," says Murray. "What we did is extract key elements into a model so that it is interpretive and predictive."

Sex and money

The first step in the process is analysing a conversation between the couple concerning a matter of contention or disagreement, such as sex or money. Observers score each partner during the conversation using a strict set of criteria.

Important factors include the extent to which someone is able to influence their partner's opinion and whether a positive statement from one person produces a positive or negative response from their spouse.

Using these scores, the researchers developed and tested various different equations to explain the way the couples responded to each other. They found that a particular differential equation enabled them to use one person's score to predict their partner's score with great accuracy.

The equation can then be used to generate a graph that provides a more general representation of the couple's relationship. The shape of this graph is used by the researchers to predict how likely the relationship is to survive.

The graphs can also be used to show couples seeking counselling how they could get on better. It could, for example, be used to recommend that one partner try to be more positive in response to certain statements.

But the researchers acknowledge that the model might not work well in cultural contexts outside the United States.

The team presented their research on Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle, Washington.

Will Knight, Seattle
http://www.newscientist.com/news/print.jsp?id=ns99994676
 
 
 
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